By Genalyn Kabiling
Government officials may face suspension and detention if they are engaged in abuse and corruption during the operations to combat the spread of the new coronavirus disease, President Duterte warned late Monday night.
As the government sets aside P200 billion for relief assistance to low income households affected by the coronavirus emergency, the President has vowed to run after people who will embezzle funds, and hoard and divert resources from the rightful beneficiaries.
Erring individuals will be released from detention only after the public health emergency is over, according to the President.
“Huwag na huwag kayong mandaya, mangurakot at taguin ‘yung mga pagkain kasi yung (Do not cheat, commit corruption, and hide food because) people sometimes think that they own whatever they receive from government. This is not yours. Neither it is mine. Pero kung mamulitika ka tapos mabalitaan ko na yun ang nagawa mo, I will suspend you ora mismo (but if you engaged in politicking and I learn what you did, I will suspend you instantly),” he said in his taped public address on government television late Monday night.
“And for those who are really absconding the money, I will detain you I and maybe I will release you pagkatapos ng COVID (after the COVID emergency),” he added.
The President reminded public servants tasked to distribute food, cash subsidies, and other relief goods “to kindly do it to a T.”
“Kung hindi ninyo naintindihan ‘yan, mag-research. Pero talagang pag-nagkamali kayo dito, hindi ko kayo palusutin (If you don’t understand it, go research. But if you commit a mistake, I will not spare you),” he said.
“Even tomorrow, If I discover some embezzlements, some hoarding, at dina-divert ang pagkain sa mga tao na hindi dapat sa kanila (diverting food to people who should not get them) you better … I am not cruel man pero kung may report ang police, I will order your detention hanggang matapos ang COVID-19 (but if there is a report by the police, I will order your dentition until COVID-19 is over),” he said.
Duterte made the latest warning after announcing the government’s launch of the “largest and widest social program” to help people amid the coronavirus emergency.
The President said the government is taking several measures to overcome and recover from the effect of the coronavirus pandemic. The government’s priorities are providing emergency assistance to affected sectors, securing facilities for resources for the health sector, and performing fiscal and monetary action.
“The government is now launching the largest and widest social protection program in our country’s history to make up for the loss of economic opportunities due to quarantine measures in the place of COVID-19,” he said.
According to the President, the government has allocated P200 billion for the two-month emergency subsidy program for low income households badly affected by the coronavirus quarantine. The government aims to to distribute financial assistance for 18 million families that will be computed based on the prevailing regional minimum wage rates.
Duterte also issued a stern warning against profiteering and hoarding amid the public health emergency.
“Hindi ito panahon para kumita, hindi ito panahon ng pagsasamantala (This is not the time to earn profits, this is not the time to take advantage of others),” he said.
The social amelioration program comes following the enactment of Republic Act No. 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” that gives the President additional powers to strengthen the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.